10/10/2012 05:52 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2012

Moms, Grandmothers, and Math

In his speech to the Republican convention, Congressman Paul Ryan spoke movingly about the women in his family. With government assistance, his mother, widowed at an early age, was able to pursue her education and career, while raising a family alone. And with help from Medicare, his grandmother was able to spend her last years at home, surrounded by friends and family. Both stories offer powerful testimony to the ability of government programs to help women when they need it most. Yet despite his personal experience, Ryan now supports policies that would make it harder, much harder, for other women to get the same kind of support that meant so much to his family.

He has a lot to answer for. And women in particular should pay close attention when Ryan faces off against Vice President Joe Biden at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky on Thursday night.

Romney-Ryan policies would gut aid to people, like his mother, trying to earn college degrees. Under their plan, one million students would lose their loans, and nearly 10 million more would see their Pell Grants cut, making their dreams for a degree, and their hopes for a brighter future, that much harder to achieve. President Obama, on the other hand, signed legislation this summer to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling and he has been a strong advocate for protecting Pell grants.

And the Romney-Ryan radical plan to change Medicare into a voucher program would raise the annual cost of care by up to $6,000 a year. In Kentucky alone, that means nearly 700,000 seniors, like Paul Ryan's grandmother, would have to make tough choices, as they balance the cost of food, housing, and medicine every month. President Obama's Affordable Care Act protects and strengthens Medicare and the AARP says it's already helping seniors.

Again and again, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's policies would deny women and their families the same types of basic support and opportunity that did so much to help his own family. That's not just a moral problem; it's a political problem, because Independent women voters, who will be central in this election, know when they're being asked to settle for something that won't work for them or their families.

At EMILY's List, we've been talking to these voters -- the women in swing states who could very well provide the margin of victory for candidates up and down the ballot -- and here's what they're telling us.

They know that if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win, they lose. They understand that the Romney-Ryan budget is a cradle-to-grave assault on programs that women and families depend on -- from Head Start to Medicare. And they're not buying it.

More importantly, the Romney-Ryan budget is a motivator for them, but perhaps not in the way the candidates had hoped:
  • 65 percent of independent women surveyed said that a plan to reduce crucial services for seniors, like Medicare, is a convincing reason to vote against Republicans;
  • 69 percent think that shifting the cost of preventative health care services, like mammograms and women wellness visits, to women is a convincing reason to vote against Republicans;
  • 70 percent found policies that favor the rich at the expense of middle class families to be a convincing reason to vote against Republicans; and
  • 70 percent found making college less affordable was a convincing reason to vote against Republicans.

So when Paul Ryan sits down to debate Joe Biden this week, he'll have some explaining to do. Why does his budget go after so many programs that have helped to grow and strengthen the middle class, including his own family? Why does he continue to single out women by gutting access to women's preventative health services, consistently voting against funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, which provides critical services to one in five American women? Why has he has voted to deny women abortion care, even in cases of rape and incest?

Paul Ryan said recently that he doesn't have time to explain all the complexities of his policies. But when Congressman Ryan and Vice President Biden meet on stage this week, mothers and grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters all over the country will be listening. And they'll want to hear him explain why his policies aren't the wrong choice for them, their families, and the communities they care about.